Panama City School Bus Driver Pleads Not Guilty to Harassing Muslim Kids

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (AP) - A school bus driver has pleaded not guilty to hate crime charges involving the harassment of Muslim children.

Thomas Plaisted was arrested in May after he allegedly hurled curses and anti-Muslim epithets and spit food at children in a Lynn Haven Taco Bell.

According to Bay County Sheriffs Office reports, the children's mother was wearing a traditional Muslim scarf in the restaurant.

He pleaded not guilty yesterday to two counts of evidencing prejudice while committing an offense.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations held a news conference before the arraignment and demanded prosecutors not waver on the felony charge and that the Bay District School Board fire Plaisted.

Ahmed Bedier, of organization's Tampa chapter, said the number of anti-Muslim incidents in Florida is increasing.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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